144 people have been exonerated or released from death row since 1974 (Newsweek.com). In laymen terms, 144 innocent people have been falsely accused of committing a crime they did not do, and were then put on death row. Fortunately for those 144 people, later evidence was found that proved their innocence. Unfortunately, according to the study Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is estimated that 4.1% or 1 in every 25 accused of a crime they did not due, are put to death. Of course, there is truly no way of knowing who is innocently put to death and who is not. I believe that capital punishment is not only inhumane, but has no place in a society that seeks progress.
Capital punishment has taken the lives of over 14 hundred people, some of which may have been innocent, while many were guilty of the crimes committed (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Many believe capital punishment is a form of “justice”, taking the life of someone who has been “proven” guilty of murder. Yet, what are the true benefits of capital punishment? Does it really lower the homicide rate in America? Most studies say no. In fact, 88% of current and former presidents of America’s top criminology societies said capital punishment does not lower the amount of homicides in America (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Police Chiefs ranked the death penalty last as a way to reduce violent crime. In North Carolina, the homicide rate has only decreased since abolishing the death penalty (nccadp.org). If there is not evidence of capital punishment actually reducing homicide rates, why keep it? Even if there is a slight decrease in the homicide rate due to capital punishment, there is no room for error when risking murdering an innocent person.
Others argue that capital punishment helps those related to the victim recover. This seems logical at first, until you understand the duration of capital punishment. Most of those sentenced to the death penalty are not executed until decades later. If you are looking for closure from capital punishment, be prepared to wait for at least ten years. Additionally, it has been found that capital punishment does not actually help the victims family. One family came to regret having their daughters killer killed. After Jeff Furgonson’s execution, Jim Hall stated “I’m convinced significant healing would have occurred for us all if our family had engaged in a frank conversation with him at the prison. I wish I had had the chance — consistent with my Christian beliefs — to have told him in person that I forgave him for what he did to our innocent and precious daughter” (Jim Hall, 2016).
From an economic perspective, capital punishment fails. The death penalty cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Ironically, with only 33% of citizens believing the death penalty should be used to punish murder, 100% of American citizens are being taxed to fund capital punishment. In the state of California, the death penalty has cost taxpayers over 4 billion dollars since 1978, a staggering amount (Alarcon & Mitchell, 2011).
Not only does the death penalty cost taxpayers millions of dollars, it is racially bias. There have only been 20 cases where a white person killed a black person and was sentenced to death; meanwhile over 280 black persons have been executed for killing a white person (deathpenaltyinfo.org). In Washington State, jurors were three times more likely to recommend the death penalty for a black defendant than a white defendant in similar situations (Prof. K. Beckett, Univ. of Washington, 2014). In multiple studies, it has been found that killing a white person greatly increases your odds of being sentenced to capital punishment, compared to other races.
Capital punishment has no place in society. J.R.R Tolkien, the renown author of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, said “Do not be eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise can not see all ends”. Desmond Tutu said “To take a life when a life is lost is revenge, not justice”. Capital punishment is the farthest thing from justice. To administer death in a already flawed judicial system only promotes future barbarianism and murder. Most 1st world countries have already abolished the death penalty and replaced it with life with/without parole, yet few like the United States persist on using this practice. In 2007, 95% of death penalties took place in China, Iran, the United States, Pakistan, and Iraq (deathpenaltyinfo.org).
I believe that in order to encourage further peace among humans and reduce the homicide rate, our first step is to abolish the death penalty and seek love and forgiveness. Gandhi’s famous “eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” quote could not be more relevant. The life of Jesus Christ did not encourage vengeance, but rather unending love and forgiveness. Likewise, his teachings about turning the other cheek when wronged with evildoing is also extremely relevant when discussing capital punishment. It is time for the United States to join the majority of the world and abolish the use of capital punishment.
I want to end my post with my favorite quote about capital punishment by Steve Earle. Earle describes his objection to the death penalty when he said “My objection to the death penalty is based on the idea that this is a democracy, and in a democracy the government is me, and if the government kills somebody I kill somebody”. How will you help rise against the evildoing of capital punishment and the cycle of revenge?
Interested in learning more about capital punishment? I posted multiple links full of fun facts and studies on the death penalty. As always, feel free to express your own views or opinions. Thanks for reading!